Which credit card should I get first?

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One of the most frequent discussions I have with people new to the credit card points world is about which credit cards to start with. While not written in stone, the ideal cards to start with are either the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Or, if you have solid credit and can swing the minimum spend requirements for both cards, get both*. If you’re new to all this, make sure to check out my post on getting started with credit cards.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred currently has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in your first three cardholder months. The card has a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived for the first year.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve also has a 50,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in your first three cardholder months. The card has a $450 annual fee NOT waived the first year, but this fee is largely offset by a $300 travel credit, Priority Pass lounge access, a $100 Global Entry application credit, and more.

The reason to start with Chase cards is because of their “5/24” rule, which will prevent you from getting most of their cards if you have been approved for 5 or more of ANY bank’s credit card within the previous 24 months. While every bank will take into account how many cards you’ve signed up for recently, no other bank has such a hard and fast rule.

Aside from the 5/24 rule, I’d argue that Chase’s points are the second-most valuable of the points currencies, right behind Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points, but are way easier to earn than SPG points. As long as you have one of Chase’s mid-tier or higher cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, your points transfer to United who can book any Star Alliance partner’s award flights without charging extra fees, which most other airlines do. They also transfer to Korean Air, who has sweet spots like an 80,000 mile business class round-trip flight from North America to Europe with their SkyTeam partners or a 25,000 mile economy class round-trip from North America to Hawaii on Delta. Or if you’re not looking for flights, your points transfer to Hyatt where you can book a hotel night for as little as 5,000 points.

Many with average or above credit should be approved for these cards. However, if you’re still growing your credit, you may need to start with the Chase Freedom or Chase Freedom Unlimited. These cards have no annual fees and are great choices for a first credit card, but won’t allow you to transfer your points to Chase’s travel partners.`

* Chase Sapphire cards are only available to those who do not currently have a Sapphire card and have not received a new cardmember bonus in the previous 24 months. In order to get both of these cards without waiting 2 years in between applications, you’ll need to apply for each card on the same day and in separate browser sessions, otherwise Chase’s system will auto-deny your second application as a duplicate.

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